“THE joy of seeing couples and families spending time together, breathing in the peace and beauty of this wonderful place, in which we are so blessed to be able to live, and to share with others.”
That is what brings smiles to the owners of Top of the Rock, Podpáirc and Walking Centre, in Drimoleague, David and Elizabeth Ross.
We catch up with the owners as we continue our series on some of Cork’s glamping sites.
What was the initial inspiration behind opening the campsite?
In the past, people driving through Drimoleague had no idea of the beautiful scenery that exists to the north of the village.
This all changed in 2008 when nine miles of walkways were put in place with the help of the West Cork Development Partnership.
As people from elsewhere began discovering these new paths, it became obvious that extra accommodation was needed.
Our small farm is situated just north of the village at an ancient place known as the ‘Top of the Rock’, which has a panoramic view of Castledonovan and the Ilen Valley.
The beautiful view, together with the need for a walking centre with accommodation, and the fact that our small farm needed a viable future, all came together to a point where we applied for planning and funding, and we were able to build what you see here today.
The design of your pods seems particularly unique to your site. What inspired their design?
These pods were inspired by the shape of the Gallarus Oratory and were built in County Kerry. They really resonate with our landscape, and convey the sense of shelter, simplicity and earthiness. Ironically, the Irish name for Drimoleague, Drom Dáimh Liag, points to the existence of a beehive cell church structure in this townland in the 7th century, so it’s like history repeating itself!
How is it operating a farm and a campsite and how do they intertwine?
It’s a small farm that’s full of life and variety with 30 suckler cows, each bearing a calf every year. There are six ewes with lambs, and about as many goats with kids.
This, together with ducks, bantams, doves, a donkey, and our wonderful dog Daisy, makes for an environment that’s full of surprises, new life and the wonder of God’s creation.
The campsite is simply our way of sharing our farm with everyone who comes to stay here.
How is it having an endless array of new faces and families filing through your home all the time?
Well, it’s certainly interesting. About 60% are people from Cork city and county, so it’s nice getting to know our neighbours! The rest are from all parts of Ireland and beyond. We have had families from Russia, Sweden, Chile, New Zealand, and of course many from the USA and the continent.
At least two-thirds of our guests on any given day are return visitors, so we build up a relationship with these families over the years and they become long-term friends.
Describe a day in your life during peak season at your Pod Páirc.
David starts off at 7am cleaning bathrooms and communal areas. At 7.30am, Elizabeth bakes two ovens full of scones and presents her breakfast bags with fresh coffee at reception.
At 10am, David starts off the Farmhands Tour, with Daisy taking the lead. Children, accompanied by parents, get to bottle-feed the lambs, gather the eggs, milk the cows, explore the bale maze, enjoy a hayride and hear the story of the farm… it’s all about fun and learning, with a Farmhands Certificate at the end.
At noon, the turnover begins for the next arrival of guests.
From 3.30pm, Elizabeth, and Joanna, our daughter, welcome our new guests, and then there’s time for a bit of a rest!
At 6.30pm, David does the feeding of the farm animals, followed by the lighting of the communal campfire where children toast marshmallows and families enjoy a chat around the fire.
By 10.30pm, we are trying to encourage everyone to go to their pods and get some sleep! It’s a busy day!
If you could describe the spirit of your campsite/land in one sentence, what would it be?
Whatever St Finbarr brought here in the 5th century is still felt today… peace and calm!